This Thai Spicy Shrimp Soup is a version of Thailand’s famous Tom Yum soup. In the Thai language the word Tom means soup and the word Yum means spicy-sour salad. These salad ingredients are in the soup therefore Tom Yam.
Thai cuisine uses chile, garlic, lemongrass, fish sauce, palm sugar and lime to balance the sweet and the sour with the hot and the salty. The unique combination of these ingredients creates a harmonious layering of flavour upon flavour rot chart – the heart and soul of true Thai cuisine.
Tom Yam Goong is made with prawns and is the most popular version of Tom Yam. In this version I use regular shrimp with their shells to make the tasty broth.
Although fresh Thai ingredients are increasingly easy to find at Asian grocery stores I like to keep some ingredients in my freezer for convenience. Here are a few tips on buying and storing lemongrass, Thai chiles and lime leaves.
Lemongrass comes in long stalks that look like gray-green, woody scallions. Both ends and the outermost layer are woody and inedible. Use the bulb-like base of the stalk sliced or coarsely chopped. When I'm entertaining or hosting a cooking classes I purchase fresh lemongrass stalks but for everyday use I buy frozen, pre-chopped lemongrass. I like the convenience of always having it on hand.
For more on lemongrass check out this post, How To Use Lemongrass.
Thai chiles, also called bird chiles, are small and fiery hot. So hot that wearing disposable plastic gloves to seed and chop them is a good idea (advice I rarely seem to follow). I buy these chiles fresh but the package always has more than I want. I store the excess in the freezer to use as needed.
The small, bumpy skinned Asian variety of lime is prized for its fragrant, dark green leaves. Their unique citrus and pine scent is used for flavouring then the leaves are removed before serving. In this soup recipe they are very thinly sliced and can be eaten.
Lime leaves are sold fresh, dried or frozen. I keep some in the freezer so I can cook Thai recipes whenever I want.
Let me know in the comments below if you tried this soup or have a favourite Thai recipe you think I should make.
Get The Tools
For an everyday home cook like me the largest pot in a typical set of pots is usually perfect for making soup. Although recipes sometimes say a Dutch oven or a soup pot they probably don’t really mean that. A example of a modern Dutch oven would be the gorgeous Le Creuset enamelled cast iron pot that I have never owned. They are heavy and expensive but will last for a lifetime of cooking. For a fraction of the cost you can buy a lesser quality enamelled cast iron Dutch oven and although I’m not sure, I think it would last at least half a lifetime.
Some recipes will call for a soup pot, also called a stockpot. Technically this is an extra large, bigger than what comes with a set of pots. They are ideal for an annual jam or salsa-making party, or special events like a lobster boil. If you cook for large groups you should own one but for an everyday soup recipe like this, the largest pot in a typical set of pots is perfect.
A Travel Tale - Thailand
From time to time I write a travel post for my friend Sue over at Travel Tales of Life. This is the one I wrote about our trip to Thailand many years ago.
Thai Spicy Shrimp Soup
- 1 lb shrimp, shells on
- 4 stalks lemongrass
- 6 cups water
- ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro stems
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into fine julienne strips
- ¼ cup Asian fish sauce
- ¼ cup lime juice (from 2 limes)
- 1 red Thai bird chile
- 2 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves
- 2 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced (or whole dried lime leaves)
- Rinse shrimp and shell, reserving shells.
- Trim both ends of lemongrass stalks and discard the tough outermost layer. Set aside 1 stalk for later.
- Take the remaining 3 lemongrass stalks and crush lightly by hitting with the back of a knife. Cut lemongrass into 1 inch pieces.
- In a large soup pot combine water, lemongrass, reserved shrimp shells, cilantro stems, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes. Strain broth into another saucepan.
- Thinly slice the lower 6 inches of the remaining lemongrass stalk discarding the rest. Add lemongrass and julienned ginger to the broth, simmer 5 minutes.
- Add shrimp and simmer 1 minute until pink and firm to touch.
- Cut chile in half and remove seeds. Slice chile so pieces are large enough to easily see.
- Add fish sauce, lime juice and chile to soup. Taste for seasoning. Serve soup into 6 bowls.
- Add cilantro leaves and lime leaves before serving.